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Shippers new target of DEA drug investigation

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Traveling by Jeep, boat and foot, Tribune-Review investigative reporter Carl Prine and photojournalist Justin Merriman covered nearly 2,000 miles over two months along the border with Mexico to report on coyotes — the human traffickers who bring illegal immigrants into the United States. Most are Americans working for money and/or drugs. This series reports how their operations have a major impact on life for residents and the environment along the border — and beyond.

By Orlando Sentinel
Tuesday, March 26, 2013, 9:12 p.m.
 

In its ongoing effort to crack down on the nation's prescription drug epidemic, the Drug Enforcement Administration has gone after doctors, pharmacists, pharmacy chains, wholesale drug suppliers — and now FedEx and UPS.

Even though the DEA will not confirm it is engaged in the probe, both companies have disclosed in corporate filings that they are targets of a federal investigation related to packages shipped from online pharmacies.

Based on the allegations, it appears federal officials are suggesting the shipping companies take responsibility for the prescription drugs inside packages they are transporting.

FedEx officials have called the California-based probe “absurd and deeply disturbing” and a threat to customers' privacy.

“We are a transportation company — we are not law enforcement, we are not doctors, and we are not pharmacists,” FedEx spokesman Patrick Fitzgerald said in a prepared statement.

Though the probe has been unfolding quietly for several years, the investigation is now gaining headlines and attention from politicians.

FedEx officials say they have had a long history of cooperating with federal law enforcement agencies.

“We have no interest in violating the privacy of our customers by opening and inspecting their packages in an attempt to determine the legality of the contents. We stand ready and willing to support and assist law enforcement,” Fitzgerald stated. “We cannot, however, do their jobs for them.”

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